Input an inline six block, single-turbo pressurization and four-digit horsepower figures, and your cerebral cortex conjures up images of a Supra 2JZ-GTE engine with a stand-by default of a Skyline RB26ETT. Imagine the surreal rampant misfiring synapses when an S52 call sign is revealed. The S52 engine code identifies a BMW powerplant, in this case the engine from an E36 M3. The E36 M3 debuted in 1995 with a 3.0-liter variant of the S52. In 1996 displacement jumped to 3.2 liters, where it stayed until the end of the E36's run in 1999.
The E36 M3 is known for its handling prowess and smooth application of thrust - not so much as a platform for four-digit power. Enter George Kakalentris and ICS Performance of Stamford, Connecticut. Their mission: to prove that the S52 is indeed strong enough to handle big boost. The car is a 1995 Dakar Yellow coupe, the engine is a later 3.2-liter S52. The amazing thing is that the Bumble Bee represents Plan B.
"Many moons ago European Car magazine laid down a challenge of a 1000-whp BMW, and we were about to answer the call with a black M3 already making 800+whp," says ICS' Brian Rosenberg. "This was a customer's car that we had been using as a showpiece. We had several major manufacturers in our corner on this project, where they supplied the new technology that was going to take it to the next level. Long story short, the owner of the car said he was going to have it repainted about one week before a major BMW show. He picked up the car and we never saw it again! We also never saw the $28,000 in parts that was owed on the build, and that hurt! But what hurt more was that this client was considered family."
"George and I were standing there wondering how in the world were we going to find 1000whp when we didn't even have a car. It was at that very second that our beat-down stock E36 M3 parts hauler pulled in from a parts run. We looked at each other and said, 'there she is.' After that, it was all hands on deck tearing the stock car apart. I had called all the vendors that were involved in the original project and told them the story behind the black car's betrayal. The universal answer from all parties was, 'What do you need? We'll get it out today. And don't worry about the money, just get her done for the magazine.' With all of our suppliers behind us, we created the fully built 'Bumble Bee' in two weeks of night-and-day wrenching. It made 1025 whp."
"So when we were on our 1000whp mission we hit up ICS and found they were in the middle of revamping the turbo, cams and other tidbits, and retuning the Bee for more power. A sense of deja vu set in as the ICS crew was once again racing the clock."
The original project started with heavy machinery as M&B Machine honed the cylinders and prepped the block of battle. ICS assembled the short block using the stock crank and forged CP pistons and Pauter rods.
Head flow is a key component of making power on a forced induction or naturally aspirated application. Headway Performance handled the big machinery porting and polishing the head. The head was filled with proprietary ICS gear, stainless steel and coated 1mm-over valves, stainless double-spring valvesprings and ICS keepers. The cams are a key player in the BMW's high-boost aspirations. The 'second generation' Bumble Bee runs VAC Motorsports Turbo Profile billet cams. A turbo cam is far different than a cam designed for a naturally aspirated engine because the turbo cam has pressure on its side. An all-motor cam has valve overlap designed into it to promote exhaust gas scavenging and quick cylinder fill up. There is no need to trick exhaust gasses or inspire the next intake charge because the turbo is pressurizing the system.
Further in its effort to scavenge an aggressive all-motor cam with a lot of valve overlap may have both intake and exhaust valves open simultaneously for too long, which would be detrimental on a turbo engine because the charge air would flow right out of the cylinder. This is why a 'turbo grind' should only be used in a turbo application, and more aggressively overlapped all-motor cams should be shied away from in a turbo application. The VAC Motorsports turbo-spec cams are available in both a mild version and an aggressive version for high-boost, high-rpm applications. Obviously, ICS went with the aggressive grind.
The S52's high boost is supplied by an Innovative Turbo Systems (ITS) GT80 turbo that features a ball-bearing cartridge, .96 A/R on the hot side and a 80mm compressor wheel. This turbo is significantly bigger than the 1025-whp unit from the original build-up. The rest of the turbo system consists of a 48mm Turbosmart wastegate, an ICS-built front-mount intercooler and a Turbosmart blow-off valve vented to atmosphere. The intake manifold, a large-plenum aluminum PPF piece fitted with a 75mm Accufab throttle body, is also a new addition. A Turbosmart E-Boost II controller regulates flow to 25 psi on the street and 35 to 40 psi in serious situations when C16 is in the tank.
The C16 is pumped to the engine by a Weldon in-line unit capable of supporting 2000 horsepower. The fuel system uses -12 AN lines and leads to an ICS rail, 1600cc Precision Turbo & Engine injectors and an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator.
Spark energy is enhanced by an Electromotive high-capacity system that is used in accordance with the engine's tuning scheme: an Electromotive TEC3R. The TEC3 is the latest evolution of Electromotive's Total Engine Control line of engine management computers. Programmed via Electromotive's Windows-based WinTEC software, the TEC3 features digital direct ignition control, distributor-less ignition, four to 12 cylinder configuration, true sequential injection capability, programmable staged boost control, multiple injector drivers - so high- and low-impedance injectors can be used - and 100sps on-board data logging. ICS wired up the Electromotive system and tuned the combination on its Dynojet. At session's end, the Bavarian-bred inline six belted out 1025.35whp and 859.81 lb-ft of torque. The ICS crew still plans on turning up the boost for even more power and expects to see 1300-plus horsepower out of the inline six eventually.
The M3 chassis is stellar, but four digits require some extra attention. ICS added custom chassis stiffening touches to the undercarriage and installed a set of JIC Magic coilovers. The driveline was fortified by a Clutch Masters clutch built especially for this application and a modified rear end featuring a 2.79 gearset, polished gears and 60-percent lockup. After de-clawing the fifth-gear spline during some heated full-throttle, full-boost antics, ICS grafted in a Euro-spec six-speed transmission to hopefully better handle the tremendous torque coming from the S52. It's always wise to increase a vehicle's stopping power in proportion to its increase in acceleration. Consequentially, braking power was addressed with a Stoptech upgrade front and rear. The front and rear setups feature Stoptech's ST-40 four-piston calipers and two-piece 332mm slotted rotors. Rolling stock consists of 18-inch Breyton wheels and heavily abused Avon tires.
This M3 is a mission accomplished for ICS. It's an adrenaline gland's best friend as it effortlessly lays long black patches during 90-mph throttle stomps...bolting sideways in the process! Isn't that just what a four-digit freak is supposed to do?